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Listening Room: Chris Brown, Timbaland and more...
Given the ill will that he’s endured since he assaulted then-girlfriend Rihanna the night before this year’s Grammy Awards, Chris Brown is in a bit of a no-win situation — and might have been well-advised to let a little more time pass before releasing a new album (especially two weeks after Rihanna’s latest). And given the horrific photos of Rihanna’s face post-beating, he might also have thought better of leading off with a track where he boasts “I Can Transform Ya.” Those looking for repentance or self-recrimination on the follow-up to 2007’s platinum “Exclusive” will likely be disappointed by “Graffiti;” “Even when my world’s fallin’ down,” Brown informs us near the end of the 13-song set, “I will wear a smile.” Instead we get a contextdefying album that sounds like it could have released just as easily pre-Grammys as it is now; the lost-love paeans (“Crawl,” “So Cold,” “Fallin’ Down”) are timeless and innocuous enough to not necessarily feel like they’re in the soul of the moment, while come-hithers such as “Sing Like Me,” “What I Do” (with Piles), “Famous Girl” and the particularly libidinous “Take My Time” (with Tank) assure us that Brown is back to business as usual in the contemporary version of the New Jack game. Retro synthesizers drive “I.Y.A.” straight to the dance floor, and the electro currents of “I Can Transform Ya,” with Lil Wayne and Swizz Beatz guesting, ride a more modern tip. Were it not for recent events, “Graffiti” would be considered a passable if uneventful modern R&B album, but current circumstances render it oddly, and unacceptably, aloof.
Timbaland, “Timbaland Presents Shock Value II” (Blackground/Mosely Music/Interscope) ***
As his third solo album draws to a close, producer-writer Timbaland (real name Tim Mosely) lets us know that “I’m simply the best when it’s all said and done.” He certainly has the hitmaking track record to back up that boast, and “Shock Value II” is, if nothing else, more consistently engaging than its platinum 2007 predecessor. Timbaland taps his mainstays such as Justin Timberlake (on the sexy “Carry Out”) and Nelly Furtado (on the cheerful dance track “Morning After Dark”) and brings some new faces to the party, from likely candidates such as new sensation Drake (“Say Something”) to surprises such as Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger, who turns it with rapper Sebastian on “Tomorrow in the Bottle,” and Miley Cyrus, who chirps about having “a new hairdo” and “a new attitude” on the New Wavey “We Belong to the Music.” Katy Perry, the Fray, Esthero, Jet and Jojo join the Timbaland stable as well, filling out an album that’s not necessarily shocking but has undeniable value.
New & Noteworthy:
George Benson, “Songs and Stories (Deluxe Edition)” (Concord): The jazz guitar legend adds a performance DVD to his well-received latest studio album.
Jimmy Buffett, “Buffet Hotel” (Mailboat): The “Margaritaville” man delivers one of his better studio efforts, from the West African-inspired title track to a rendition of Bruce Cockburn’s “Life’s Short” and road-tested fare such as “Nobody From Nowhere” and “Summerzcool.”
Clipse, “Til the Casket Drops” (Columbia): The Virginia Beach rap duo kicks it with Kanye West, Keri Hilson, Pharrell, Kenna, Yo Gotti, Rick Ross and others on its third album.
Gucci Mane, “State vs. Radric Davis” (Asylum)”:
The Alabama-born MC’s second album piles on the guests with Lil Wayne, Usher, Plies, Cam’ron, Rick Ross and others adding rhymes to the mix.
Marillion, “Less is More” (Eagle): The British prog-rockers take an acoustic trip through their lengthy catalog.
The Mary Dream, “This Kind of Life” (SuperUniverse):
The second album by the Nashville duo is a DIY affair right down to the establishment of the group’s own label.
Medeski, Martin & Wood, “Radiolarians: The Evolutionary Set” (Indirecto):
A boxed set gathering of the improvisatory trio’s three “Radiolarians” releases, adding a few other goodies to go with them.
Puddle of Mudd, “Volume 4: Songs in the Key of Love and Hate” (Geffen): Original guitarist Paul Phillips returns to the fold for the earnest rockers’ latest release, which was recorded in Vancouver and Los Angeles and already has a rock radio hit in “Spaceship.”
7DayBinge, “7DayBinge” (Rock Ridge): The first effort by the low-key but hard-rocking “supergroup” that features former Kid Rock guitarist Kenny Olson, 3 Doors Down bassist Todd Harrell and MuzikMafia keyboardist Jon Nicholson makes its digital debut this week, with physical CDs due out Jan. 26.
Snoop Dogg, “Malice N Wonderland” (Doggystyle/ Priority): The West Coast rapper’s 10th studio album features R. Kelly and Soulja Boy as guests and production by The-Dream, the Neptunes, Nottz and other top-shelfers.
Soundtrack, “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” (Rhino): Alvin and company take on high-pitched versions of hits by the Bee Gees, Dead or Alive, Foreigner, Beyonce, Pink, Katy Perry and others on this film companion, and also rock out with Honor Society on the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.”
Soundtrack, “Glee: The Music, Volume 2” (Columbia):
More tunes — including covers of Van Halen and Kelly Clarkson hits — from the hit TV show, in case last month’s Volume 1 wasn’t enough for you.
STS9, “Ad Explorata” (1320 Records): The electronic jam band’s 10th album is its third release of the year, following a digital live album and a remix collection.
3 Doors Down, “Where My Christmas Lives”: A digital only EP featuring six acoustic versions of songs from the group’s latest album as well as studio and acoustic versions of the title track.
30 Seconds to Mars, “This is War” (Virgin): The third album by actor Jared Leto’s modern rock group was delayed by a battle with its record company as well as an unused collaboration with Kanye West.
Andrew X, “Language of Love” (Peace Regime): The singer, songwriter and children’s book author gets expansive on this set, with two separate discs subtitled “Heaven” and “Earth.”
We the Kings, “Smile Kid” (S-Curve): The second album from these Bradenton, Fla. pop-punkers includes guest appearances by cred-crushing Demi Lovato and Hey Monday’s Cassadee Pope.
Neil Young, “Dreamin’ Man Live ‘92” (Reprise): The latest entry in Young’s continuing archival series comes from a solo acoustic tour and features a recital of his entire then-unreleased “Harvest Moon” album.
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